Current state of Cape's vocational education

Cape Cod vocational technical education is where the action is
An extension of the school systems from Provincetown to Mashpee.

Cape Cod Regional Technical High School

By Superintendent: Robert P. Sanborn III, Cape Cod Tech

Having worked at Cape Cod Tech since 1994, I wanted to inform our district about the current state of vocational education.

As evidenced by the Cape Cod Today July 25 “Cape Cod's vocational schools continue to grow 8% while student population shrinks 21%”, the state of vocational education on Cape Cod and in the commonwealth is very strong. As I jokingly say in the hallways when referring to my love for this school, “I don’t ever want to graduate from Cape Cod Tech” because vocational technical education is where the action is.

I want to highlight that we provide a solution to a coming “skills gap” in trade careers, we are an extension of the school systems from Provincetown to Mashpee, we are a community resource and we offer an education that does not ask you to choose between college or career.

Overselling a four year degree

When someone thinks of traditional vocational education the first disciplines that come to mind are programs that train plumbers, electricians, heating ventilation and air conditioning technicians and carpenters as well as auto collision, automotive and marine technicians.

In overselling a four year degree, the traditional education system has devalued these handsomely paid and now highly technical careers. In diminishing the value of fixing and building things in favor of college for all, our nation and Cape Cod have not produced enough graduates with these skills. Mike Rowe from the show “Dirty Jobs” has turned this clear and present problem known as the “skills gap” into a national movement called “Mike Rowe Works”. His foundation’s mission seeks to publicize the rosy employment picture for vocational technical graduates while breaking down the stereotypes. Cape Cod Tech and Mike Rowe share the mission of convincing parents that vocational technical training, in many cases, is the appropriate option for their son or daughter.

Three million unfilled jobs every year

Statewide demand for vocational technical education exceeds the capacity of the system to supply it. In two recent Boston mayoral candidate commercials, the need to expand vocational technical education in the city has been trumpeted. Because three million jobs nationwide go unfilled every year due to the lack of required skills, vocational education is on the mind of politicians. With the “skills gap” accelerating this problem as those with the requisite skills retire and college debt skyrocketing, Cape Cod parents should make an informed decision whether certain four year degrees pay.

With declining enrollment and a hyper-competitive education marketplace especially on the lower cape, Cape Cod Tech increasingly experiences challenges to informing seventh and eighth grade students about the benefits of a vocational technical education. Cape Cod Tech is increasingly being viewed as a threat to our sending districts rather than an option for their students. We are lumped in as a competitor like parochial, charter and school choice options.

We are not a school of choice. We were built as an extension of our twelve sending districts to regionally deliver technical education that would cost too much if delivered in each and every district. We are the vocational technical option for our sending districts not a threat to them.

Access to our school is not only an issue of parent and student rights but also an economic development issue as well. It is no secret that Cape Cod suffers from a lack of living wage jobs.

Seventeen technical areas

Our graduates stay on Cape Cod fueling our economy with sustainable wages as our electrician, plumber, auto technician, nurse or dental assistant. Cape Cod Tech functions as a community resource as well. Our seventeen technical areas service town vehicles, build or remodel town structures, feed the public at our restaurant and satisfy the printing and publication needs of town departments. We also provide childcare during school hours to district families, style and manicure local citizen’s hair and nails and operate a full service florist shop. Our students learn valuable skills while supplementing the local business workforce through our cooperative education and internship programs.

In turn, we owe a great debt of gratitude to business owners, employees and community members who serve on our seventeen technical advisory committees. It is mutually beneficial when Cape Cod Tech students gain real world experience while saving taxpayers money.

Attending a regional vocational technical high school such as Cape Cod Tech is choosing “the Cadillac of vocational technical education delivery” as described by the Harvard School of Graduate Education in their report “Pathways to Prosperity”. Gone are the days of the “trade”
school for “those” kids, vocational technical schools like Cape Cod Tech offer programs in Health Technologies, Engineering Technology, Information Technology and Graphic Design.

Half go on to further education

These disciplines demand academic skills with further training a virtual requirement. Fifty percent of our students go onto further education. We are meeting the demands of school accountability just like our sending districts primarily because students see the relevance of their academic classes through the lens of their chosen technical program. It is no longer a choice to forgo college for a career. It is a choice in high school of a career pathway that leads to college for a certificate program, two-year degree or four-year degree.

Furthermore, when further education is pursued it is more often focused on a course of study students began at our school.

After nearly twenty years in vocational technical education, “I don’t plan to graduate from Cape Cod Tech” will still be my mantra because we are in a renaissance in Massachusetts and I don’t want to miss a day. Like Mike Rowe, our mission will be to break down the stereotypes and open the eyes of parents and prospective students to the employment opportunities we offer. To the parents who have entrusted their students to us, thank you and help spread the word. Your son or daughter can come to Cape Cod Tech to fill the “skills gap” and graduate with the skills to pursue a lucrative career in their technical field out of high school or they can choose a course of study at Cape Cod Tech that will require further education.

All this potential under one roof at 351 Pleasant Lake Avenue, Harwich, Ma., from Provincetown to Mashpee, your community resource, your regional vocational technical high school, Cape Cod Tech.

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